Tonle Sap - The Unique Lake in the Heart of Mekong
by Blake Johnson Apr 21, 2017
Having an excursion to the Kingdom of Wonder is a remarkable journey to not only discover the ancient world with Angkor complex but also enjoy the biodiversity in Tonle Sap Lake. It’s good chance to get new experiences with nature when you pay a visit to Tonle Sap Lake - the largest freshwater lake in Southest Asia.
Like other destination, the name of the lake also reveals one of its features. In Khmer, tonle literally means large river and sap is fresh or not salty. Thus, Tonle Sap can be understood as the large freshwater river. In Cambodia, the Tonle Sap Lake which is well-known as Great Lake is the combination of lake and river system.
The dimension of the lake changes when the flow of water changes, which can be seen clearly in two different seasons (the wet and the dry season). The wet season ranges from June to October. It’s time the huge amount of water flowing backward from Tonle Sap River fills the lake and brings alluvial and the rich biodiversity to this unique ecological hotspot. This is partly explained by the annual phenomenon. The snow in the Himalaya Mountains melting and flowing into the Mekong River will cause the Tonle Sap river to reverse its flow and run into the lake. This makes the size of the lake expand more than five-fold with surrounding floodplains and flooded forest. This area plays an important role in making home for several kinds of birds, fish spawning and breeding babies as well as many other mammals such as turtles, snakes and crocodiles. In the dry season (from November to May), the lake is fairly small since the water will drain into the Tonle Sap river to flow to Mekong river.
Tonle Sap Lake in the wet season
Thanks to the diverse eco-system, in1997 Tonle Sap Lake was designated as UNESCO biosphere.
Floating Villages in Tonle Sap
The Great Lake where has natural resources such a large amount of fish and wetland is an ideal place for residents. The majority of people living around the lake earn their living from fishing and agriculture. Thus, there’s no doubt that visitors can find several stilt houses near the waterway or boat houses on the lake.
Located at the edge of the lake and not far from Siem Reap, Chong Kneas floating village is an accessible location from Siem Reap to discover the Great Lake. Since this village is home to Khmer, Cham and Vietnamese, travellers can have chance to explore the distinctive features in their household and to visit the lively floating market, fisheries, clinics, school and shops. In addition, the Gecko Environment Centre and crocodile farm in this village enable visitors to learn and get the information about ecology and biodiversity of the lake area.
» Read More: Siem Reap - The Ancient World in Cambodia
Houses built on tall stilts within the floodplain are one of the outstanding features of this village. Kampong Phluk which means Harbor of the Tusks just likes the floating market in the wet season when the water is high and hide the stilt of the house. In the dry season, the water in lake shrinks and all the high stilt are exposed. This village allows you to take boat ride to explore the flooded forest easily in the wet season. The beautiful scenery and the unique life in this village capture the attention from many travellers.
Far 28km from Siem Reap town, Mechrey floating village is an amazing place for travellers to gain some new experience with the live on the lake and fishing activities. It’s fun to take boat ride and discovery the daily life of fishermen. Moreover, this rewarding village enables you to take the ox-cart to enjoy yourself with the fresh air and the beautiful countryside view with green field in the dry season.
Prek Toal - The Not-to-be-missed stopover in the exploration in Tonle Sap
Prek Toal gains the nice fame with travellers as one of three Biosphere Reserves in Tonle Sap. Thanks to the flooded forest, it becomes home of several fishes and endangered birds such as Black-headed Ibis, the Greater and Lesser Adjutant, the Milky stork, Painted Stork. The diversity of birds attracts many bird watchers all over the world to come and visit this largest waterbird colony in South-East Asia. Dry season is recommended as the best time to see a large number of birds gathering on the wet land and observe several bird nests on the trees in flooded forest.
Moreover, you can spend time on visiting floating village in Prek Toal, enjoying the lifestyle of people living on the water and finding the unique features in this sanctuary.
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